CMU’s ‘Giving Tuesday’ sets records for online donations

Credit: Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Credit: Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Tables set up in the Jared L. Cohon University Center on Tuesday campaigned for students, faculty, and staff to donate to the Carnegie Mellon University’s Giving Tuesday initiative. (credit: Rae Lasko/) Tables set up in the Jared L. Cohon University Center on Tuesday campaigned for students, faculty, and staff to donate to the Carnegie Mellon University’s Giving Tuesday initiative. (credit: Rae Lasko/)

Carnegie Mellon broke previous fundraising records this year during its second significant effort to fundraise for campus groups during a larger national day of giving. The university participated in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving started by New York cultural center 92nd Street Y in 2012, by encouraging university constituents to give back to campus. #givingCMUday is Carnegie Mellon’s take on the event.

The Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving first embraced the event last year, largely carrying it out through social media, drawing out 533 donors. This year, the office set a goal to increase that donor count by 18 percent, to 630 donors. Their final donor count nearly doubled that number — 1,209 students, parents, alumni, staff, and faculty turned out to surpass that goal, according to the university’s official #givingCMUday website. They also broke the university’s record for the most donations received in one day, from 878 previously. These gifts amounted to $180,487.01.

The turnout overloaded the online system, according to Director of Annual Giving Mary Ann McCollough. This then prompted donors to call in gifts and pledge to send donations by mail. McCollough said that the Office of Annual Giving’s goal was to encourage donors to understand that “there are thousands of funds in this university. Whether it’s your college, your department, your club, your organization, give where you believe need[s] support.”

Carnegie Mellon’s standard donation form, which is hosted on, gives donors the option to choose any campus fund ranging from academic departments and student activities, to athletic teams and Greek organizations.

The Office also ran five planned social media challenges and one pop-up challenge throughout the day, including one which asked campus members to tweet which fund they believe is most important to Carnegie Mellon and encouraging them to post a photo wearing Carnegie Mellon swag or plaid. Randomly selected winners received $500 toward their fund of choice.

The School of Drama Showcase and a currently unannounced winner as of press time received money for a challenge that asked campus members to tell how Carnegie Mellon philanthropy impacts their lives.

Kappa Alpha Theta and service organization Juntos received money for a challenge to film a Vine wishing a stranger “Happy #givingCMUday.” Winners of other challenges include Camp Kesem, a group that organizes recreational camps for children of parents with cancer, the Tepper Class of 2016, and Mock Trial, among others.

In addition to these challenges, representatives from the Office of Annual Giving tabled in the Jared L. Cohon University Center, where they asked students to write the name of an organization they believe deserves $500 on a heart-shaped sticky note to post on the wall.

Thanks to the generosity of five alumni donors, five of the 362 notes were randomly selected to win $500. Another almunus offered to match student donations up to $500 in donations to support the Presidential Fellowship and Scholarship program.

However, the reception among students was not as overwhelming. Senior civil engineering major Erin Persson said that “Most of us don’t have steady income or extra money to give out, and we shouldn’t be expected to give more as students.” In order to combat this type of negative reaction, McCollough shared that in future years the office plans to do more advertising prior to the event to ensure better student understanding. “First it’s the awareness, then it’s the education, and then it’s participation. And we have to continue to cultivate that,” said McCollough. “Fundraising is no longer a letter in the mail.”

In July, Carnegie Mellon hired Scott Mory as vice president for university advancement in order to spark fundraising efforts.

Previously, Mory led the efforts of the University of Southern California on a campaign to raise $6 billion, one of the largest university campaigns in history.

This comes alongside recent efforts focused on giving such as last November’s launch of which allows student organizations to use the platform for 30 days, and the donation incentives for the class of 2015. Because giving factors into the algorithm that determines university ranking, Carnegie Mellon is making efforts to better its standing.

The larger #GivingTuesday initiative raised $116.7 million this year, with 698,961 donations made at a mean gift size of $107.47, according to the initiative’s website.